Monday 26 October 2009

French Words In Crosswords

Cryptic clues sometimes make use of foreign language words in the wordplay, of which French is most common.

NIE 12-Oct-09: Go up to the French peers amorously (5)
In this clue, "peers amorously" is the definition, and "Go up" gives OG.
"the French" implies that the French word for "the" (LES) has to be put into the answer.

What if you don't know French? Not to worry – in crosswords, you can get by with just rudimentary knowledge.

Use the table below as reference for the most common English-French translations you'll need in cryptic clues.

English Word French Equivalent Remarks/Example Clues
the LE, LA, LES "the" takes different forms in French depending on whether it precedes a masculine, feminine or plural word. This gives flexibility to the setter to use whichever form suits the clue.

NIE 03-Sep-09: Trickery of the French in a sense (7) S{LE}IGHT
Guardian 24786 (Chifonie): The French writer climbed here (5) {NEP AL}<-
is EST Times 4303: To make money is, in France, businesslike (7) EARN EST
one, a UN, UNE UNE the feminine form of UN.

THC 2653: One in Paris lit up before (5) UN {TIL}<-
and ET NIE 9837: Where to buy and sell German money and French (6) MARK ET
very TRÈS THC 9533 (Gridman): Exchanges with a leader of Democrats held by the very French (6) TR{A D}ES
who QUI Times 24107: Lampoon Parisian who moves into unoccupied suburb (5) S{QUI}B
Yes/No might be represented cryptically in the clue, such as "consent in Paris", "a refusal in France".

Guardian 24625 (Brummie): Safe-to-consume beef source limited by France's negative repeated action (3-5) NON-T{OX}IC
of DE NIE 9852: Consignment of French uniform (8) DE LIVERY
for POUR NIE 30-Dec-08: French for rain heavily (4) POUR [2]
FT 13213 (Dogberry): "Garment in Paris", I briefly reply (5) JE ANS
FT 13093 (Monk): Common sense of Monk and FT solvers in Paris (4) NOUS [2]

Perhaps since MOI is used so much in English, it is sometimes a direct substitution for ME, without indication that it's a French word.
you TU, VOUS TU is the singular, informal "you". VOUS is the plural/formal "you". Much like tu and aap in Hindi.

ET 3618: Afraid a row will detract from a meal with you in Paris (7) {-din}NER VOUS
he, it
Times 23757: Given caution about the Parisian female - certainly not for nothing! (4,6) W{ELL,E}ARNED
friend AMI

NIE 9813: French friends set out in poor visibility (3,4) SE{A MIS}T

night NUIT ET 3201: Dark time in Paris covered by whatever income is available (7) AN{NUIT}Y
good BIEN (noun), BON (adjective) NIE 22-May-09: It's good in France and America to get extra money (5)BON US
street RUE THC 8954: West End Street in Paris? That's right! (4) T RUE

French Word Indicators

The clue contains an indicator for change of language, placed next to the word(s) to be converted to French.

These are broadly of the following kinds:

  • The most direct ones - those that mention France, a city in France or French: 
    French, Parisian, in France, in Paris

  • Those that mention a French person's name:
    Rene's, Pierre's 

  • Those that mention other countries where the language is spoken, or languages closely related to French:
    in Quebec, Picard's

You'll occasionally see Nice (a city in France) used deceptively as French indicator, when placed at the start of a clue to mask its capitalization. [Hat-tip to Kryptonologist].

A recent example:
Times Sunday crossword 4349: Nice heads keeping adult in conversation (4-1-4) TETE-A-TETE
TÊTE is French for "head".

How To Solve When You Don’t Know The French Word

Once in a while, the clue will require French that's beyond your vocabulary. Even then you have plenty to go upon. Most importantly, you have an indicator pointing out the English word for which you need the French equivalent.

Take this clue:
FT 12981: Child grabbing day in Paris for short stay (7)
"in Paris" is the signal that some French is needed. From the clue's structure and the indicator's placement, you can work out that you need the French for "day".

Suppose you don't know what "day" is called in French. Online, it's easiest to put the English word into Google Translate and convert it. For this clue, that gives JOUR. The answer then works out as SO{JOUR}N.

Solve These!

NIE 9814: Joins up with the French company first (7)
FT 13179 (Bradman): Lodge with French art found in the course of journey (6)
Times 24365: Parisian who enters state positively trembling (7)

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Kryptonologist said...

One and a in French can also be une (feminine form of un), though it's not as common.

A tricky French indicator you may occasionally see is Nice (a city in France), placed of course at the start of a clue to mask its capitalization. I've used it myself in puzzle writing:

Nice one gets sex appeal back to let loose (5)

Shuchi said...

Thanks Kryptonologist, the "Nice" trick has tripped me up a couple of times in the past.

I must mention that in the main post. Thanks for your inputs.

Kryptonologist said...

Joins up with the French company first (7)


Parisian who enters state positively trembling (7)


Lodge with French art found in the course of journey (6)


"Art" in this case is the archaic second-person singular of "to be" (as in "thou art"). The French translation is ES (as in "tu es"). Very clever!

Wordy22alen said...

Of course they do. When I lived in France, I would pass the time during my daily commute on public transit doing the puzzles (in French of course) in the free daily newspapers.
In France, in fact there are two different types of crosswords: mots croisés (literally, crossed words) with numbered clues on the side, and mots fléchés (literally, arrowed words) wherein the clues were printed on the shaded squares.